SPECIAL REPORT: Expunged records are not always removed from public record

SPECIAL REPORT: Expunged records are not always removed from public record

SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - Getting a job can be a stressful process, especially for those who may have criminal records.

Some people attempt to have their records expunged, but sometimes potential employers may still get their hands on that classified information.

A local man, who wants to remain anonymous, said it keeps happening to him.

Just two days after high school, a man we'll call Charlie got into some trouble.

"Young; going out having fun. We were pulled over. I had in my possession a little bit of marijuana," he said.

After owning up to the misdemeanor, completing probation and doing community service, Charlie has his record expunged.

"An expungement is the removal of a criminal conviction, it's not a destruction of the record, but it is a removal of the record from public access, from public viewing. Therefore, it would not show up in criminal background checks for employment purposes primarily," said Mark Judson, executive director, of the SWLA Law Center.

His conviction should never be seen by a potential employer, but that's not what happened.

"I got laid off because I could not obtain a TWIC card; after applying for a TWIC card, I was then denied. Whenever the facility I was in enforced that the TWIC card was required, I was taken to the gate; they said 'I'm really sorry; love to have you back if you get it, but you can't be in this facility anymore," he said.

Unable to get the correct credentials, Charlie lost his job. Years later, he was applying for a management position elsewhere.

"I was offered a position during the interview. They were very excited. I was too," he said.

And again, the expunged conviction was there.

"I received a letter saying I was ineligible," he said.

Another job prospect.

"We did the background check and I was informed by a phone call a week later, by the person who interviewed me, that I cannot - I'm not allowed to substitute teach in their parish," he said.

How could this expunged record show up in a background check?

"I learned this is happening strictly from negligent practices. Essentially these private background companies get these large databases from courts and never bother to update them," said Hartman King of the Expunged Record.

Hartman King is from California, but he shares a similar story of missed opportunities.

"Job and housing opportunities - I've had this expunged record come up a dozen times," he said.

He's launched a website to help others fighting the same battle.

"It's widely acknowledged that this is a flawed system. You know, I don't think enough people are trying to change the system, but everybody knows it's flawed," King said.

To ensure your record is accurately reported by every background screening company out there, you must write to each and every one. That's 350 letters and counting.

"I literally wrote a letter to each one, and there's a number of them that didn't want to comply with the law, so I had to send follow-up letters. I hired a whole legal team to help me formulate a response and formulate the letters to get this done," King said.

For Charlie and King. they know why they were turned down for certain jobs. But how often is it happening?

"This happens all the time; the law says when a background check is run on you, you have the right to see it, but unfortunately that doesn't happen in practice and even the background screeners association acknowledged that at their conference," King said.

In fact, after complaints were filed against one company, it was ordered to provide $10.5 million in relief to those whose backgrounds may have been inaccurate.

One of those was Charlie. Unfortunately, the problem could continue.

A mistake he made 10 years ago is still following him.

"That part of me is gone; that's changed, but yet it still lingers in the back of my mind - OK, do I need to tell them about this because they are going to be able to see it? Or is this a company who is not going to be able to see it?'" he said.

Without new legislation or changes to the way these companies are supervised, Charlie wonders what may happen.
    
"When I decide to move higher up in my career field, is this going to follow me when I decide to work in a facility that's pretty high security? Can I get in? Is this going to effect me?" he said.

When will Charlie to be allowed to let go of the past?

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